Meal of the Week: Jewish holiday favourite from Italy Erbazzone
With the Jewish holiday of Passover just behind us, Euronews Culture explores the Jewish roots of one of northern Italy’s most famous dishes: the Erbazzone.
The Italian peninsula has been home to many people across the Mediterranean and beyond for millennia. Be it via trade, conquest, occupation or people seeking refuge away from their home countries. With these people came their food and culinary expertise, which has influenced many dishes across the peninsula.
With the Jewish holiday of Passover just behind us, we’re going to explore the Jewish roots of one of northern Italy’s most famous dishes: the Erbazzone.
A common dish in the northern regions of Emilia-Romagna and northern Tuscany, it is usually eaten at home or even as a street food. This savoury herbal pie is an excellent side dish or quick snack on the go.
Although variations of leafy green herbal pies are common across the region, it is believed that this particular one has its roots in the Sephardic Jewish community who fled Spanish persecution during the 1490s. As these Sephardic Jews settled in neighbouring countries around the Mediterranean, many of the ones who ended up in the Italian peninsula settled in Livorno or Venice.
In the Passover tradition, it is common to eat bitter herbs and this pie is thought to have originated from that custom. Over the years the variety and methods of preparing the pie have changed to adapt to the Emilia-Romagna region, like the addition of Parmigiano Reggiano and variations in the kind of herbs and leafy greens added to the pie.
Given the flexibility of the recipe, it is easy to change it to your dietary needs. For example, most recipes include some kind of lard in the ingredients for the dough but if you keep kosher or halal, you can easily substitute it out and simply use olive oil.
WHAT YOU NEED:
For the dough:
200 grams of flour
A glass of room temperature water
Two teaspoons of salt
A tablespoon of olive oil
500g of spinach or other mixed leafy greens
One small onion
Three cloves of garlic
6/7 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4/5 tablespoons of olive oil
HOW TO MAKE IT:
Put a skillet on low medium heat and add in your olive oil, garlic and sliced onions. Cook them until they turn lightly brown and the onions start to become transparent. Add in your washed leafy greens a handful at a time until they shrink a bit then add in the next handful while mixing well. After all of your leafy greens are in the skillet, add in your salt and pepper and continue stirring until well mixed. They will lose a lot of water during the cooking process, so if you want to speed up the cooking a bit you can scoop out some of the water.
While you are waiting for your leafy greens to cook, you can start making the dough. Disclaimer, if you are following Passover tradition, this dough is considered leavened bread.
Take 200g of flour and mix with a cup of room temperature water and two teaspoons of salt. In the middle of mixing the dough, add a tablespoon of olive oil and continue to mix until a ball is formed. Kneed the dough for about two to three minutes. After the dough is ready, cut it in half and flatten one of them out to fit the baking dish you will be putting it in.
Once the leafy greens are ready, mix in 5/6 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in a bowl and then add the mixture on top of the dough you placed in your baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and add the top layer of dough.
You can close it by folding the bottom layer on top of the top layer and pinching it shut. Remember to poke a few holes on the top of the dough.
Cook in a preheated oven at 200°C for 30 minutes
Let cool for five to ten minutes and you’re ready to eat up!